The festive season is drawing near! The weather is starting to warm up, the remaining months on the calendar are few and the shops are overcrowding their shelves with gifts and Christmas decorations which, might I add, seem to be arriving earlier and earlier each year! With this comes the relief of the rapidly approaching end of the working year and the promise of the summer holidays, along with numerous invitations to parties and end of year get-togethers. Following on from the more formal occasions comes the countless family events which accompany the much anticipated Christmas celebrations. While this may be a time of year which many people simply cannot wait to arrive, it is most certainly not the highlight of everyone’s year! The summer holidays are known to place a tremendous amount of strain on relationships and family units. An unfortunate reality is that this time of year is when many relationships and marriages are put under such strain that they fracture and crumble.

Why is this you may ask? Well, there is no denying that the festive season, although filled with many joyous occasions, can also be a bit crazy with some rather difficult situations which require careful navigation. It is important to keep this in mind when approaching the year end celebrations and work, together with your partner, to devise some coping strategies and plans to help get you through the not so fun parts of the holidays. Below are some problems which frequently occur during the summer holidays along with some guidelines which may assist you in managing the situations as productively and calmly as possible.

Family Gatherings

The festive season is generally the time of year when families gather together and celebrate the year that is rapidly drawing to a close along with the all important Christmas celebrations. While this can be a wonderful time, lets be honest with each other in admitting that no family is without fault! There is virtually no way that an extended family gathering will go down without at least a handful of arguments, quarrels or disagreements at best. This is completely natural! It cannot be expected that everyone in an extended family will see things the same way. This will inevitably lead to some conflicts of interest between family members.
In a situation such as this, it is generally best to address the problem then simply agree to disagree, find a compromise and move on. Don’t hold grudges and don’t hold on to arguments for the entire holiday season, it will ruin the festivities for not only you and your ‘enemy’ but for your entire family as well. Holding on to arguments will most likely lead to more arguments with other family members and will usually infiltrate into your immediate family, namely your partner and children, if you have, which will only do unnecessary damage. Honestly, it is best to address the problem, find a compromise and move on!

Expectations

This relates mainly to the expectations of each individual family member which, let’s face it, will all be unique! Each person, or at least each individual family unit will have their own set of expectations for the festive season regarding, for example, how much should be spent on gifts, what should be on offer for the celebratory meals and how this should be prepared, what activities should be completed, how many drinks you should have, what time the kids should be in bed, the list just goes on and on! And let’s not forget the countless opinions and judgments which fly around, eg. How you should or should not be raising the kids, how you should be married already, how the kids spend too much time or not enough time with technology, how you drink or eat either too much or too little, how to spend too much or too little money, all depending on what position you are in at present. This can be extremely trying for a couple to have to deal with, regardless of what stage you are in your relationship, as there will always be some or other expectation or opinion which will relate to you. I know it seems impossible but try your best to prepare for these situations as a couple and come up with a plan, together, for how you will handle them. All too often couples find themselves in these situations and have no idea how to handle it and so end up dealing with it as individuals rather than as a couple. This can cause even more friction within the relationship as the two partners will, frequently, feel as though they are not being supported by their partner. If you come up with a plan before the time then you will work together as a team and feel supported during any difficult situations rather than ending up arguing with each other as well, leading to even greater feeling of isolation and disapproval.

City Slave

Now for one of the most frustrating and troublesome events of the festive season: trips to the shops! Traffic, overcrowded stores, frantic gift shopping, not knowing what gifts to buy, financial strain, all the difficulties which have to be faced whilst enduring temperatures generally in the upper 30’s. It is no wonder that couples tend to argue excessively during these trips.

Here are a few things which may help:

 Come to an agreement, as a couple, on the budget prior to setting off, and stick to it. This way you won’t have to stress about straining your financial situation.
 Make a wish list and ask everyone else to do the same. This way you can pick and choose from the list with the peace of mind that you will be giving each person something which they will actually appreciate.
 Make a day of it. Leave with the plan, and supplies, for an extended trip. This way you can get it all done in one or two trips. Perhaps even plan a few fun activities to do as a couple while you are out, think a movie or a quick bite to eat.
 Don’t forget to hydrate and nibble during your trip! We all know the term ‘hangry’! It is by no means a joke, when you are hungry you are far more likely to lash out at anyone around you and, seeing as your partner will no doubt be the closest and most consistent body around, they will inevitably be in the firing line! This links back to the above mention of ‘making a day of it’. Perhaps plan for having a break mid trip to refuel, you and your partner will be grateful in the long run!

So much to do!

The last thing which I am going to touch on here is the tremendous amount of activities which are frequently crammed into this time of year. Although this can be great and lead to you spending more time with your partner than usual, frequently couples end up feeling as though they have spent no time together as they are interacting with everyone else but not with each other. This can put a tremendous amount of strain on a relationship or a family unit. Try to make arrangements for quality time with just your partner or immediate family unit. Something as simple as a trip to the beach or a meal out together, just you, your partner and kids, should you have any. This is extremely important. Most people are so busy during the year that they neglect quality time as a couple or family. The summer holidays is your chance to catch up on this and really reconnect, don’ let it slip by due to prioritising social engagements.

So there we have it, a few ideas to maybe help ease the strain of the festive season and perhaps make this time of year a little more enjoyable. Don’t let your relationship add to the heart-breaking statistic count of relationship separations over this festive season. Rather find ways to strengthen the bond with your partner, family and friends. One last point worth mentioning is that, should your relationship already be under strain, the festive season will most likely be exceedingly problematic for both you and your partner. If you are battling with conflicts of which you simply cannot find solutions, it is best to seek professional assistance at your earliest convenience. I know that this is the last thing which you may be wanting to embark upon at this time of the year, but relationships do not magically revert to the early, love filled days
when the festive season arrives. With relationship counselling, you will be assisted in facing and developing strategies to help in resolving your relationship woes together, as a team. If your relationship is under strain I encourage you to seek help before the festive season arrives. This way you will have some strategies available to help you and your partner through difficult situations which will hopefully allow you to both have a far more enjoyable holiday. Think of it as an early Christmas present to each other which will only increase in value as the years go by!

Here’s to a joyous and love filled 2018 festive season!

By Emma Martin